Assuming that Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is voted in as the president of Nigeria in the 2019 presidential contest, what would he his rating in terms of the ideological homestead or even the strong versus competent leader dichotomy that might define the selection of the next occupant of that office? The Senator’s formal declaration of intent last week to contest for the office of the president next year makes him a good subject of interrogation along this line. Before him, only former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, had advanced to be recognised for the position in that manner. That is coming to Abuja for a test of space with the roaring lion at Aso Rock Villa. Nearly half a dozen others are hopping around the country, talking to people in pursuit of the same office but not all have done it the Kwankwaso way yet. Even Atiku Abubakar did it in far away Yola, capital city of his home state.
Hardly anyone doubts that Atiku is highly motorized, on cue to explode on Nigeria in terms of the most fascinating legworks; his organisation of the struggle for power; his resource capability which is generally believed to be second to none and, of course, a national network considered to be unbeatable. But not the image and the message, considered to be poor. Why the image may not be that bright could be a function of a multiple of reasons, from gossips to bad belle to half truths to conjectures to actual encounters or lived experience. As for the message, it could just be that he hasn’t got any. Or it is there but yet to be communicated in a manner that leaves a clear link between value and leadership. Whichever one is the case, the sort of message from the former Vice-President that will shred Buhari’s residual charismatic purchase, particularly in the northwest, has not been heard from the veteran’s veteran. On this, it is still rather Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, who is getting it better.
A sampler might be his July 15th, 2018 statement: Dankwambo: I won’t just be President but a warrior in the fight against poverty, injustices, July 15th, 2018. That is a hint of something beyond sabre rattling against the ruling party to which people are already looking for something superior, not just missiles against it. This is just an example, not an endorsement of Dankwambo. How it could be happening that a technocrat would appear more adept with circulation of power through language than the veterans is the puzzle so far. If language is a conscious social intervention, then that is another frightening signal to watch because, from their language use, one should be able to tell where they are coming from and if they have the carrying capacity for managing Nigeria in the era when competence is being privileged over and above quantitative sense of power. Could it be the case that the Wazirin Adamawa is relying on grammarians and those suffering from poverty of ideas rather than relying on repositories of ideas of poverty?
What is the scenario when we move to Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso? Has he got a message? Yes and no! Yes because the very idea of Kwankwasiya suggests a movement and its followers. It is the theory and practice of believers in a movement called Kwankwasoism but what might be the kernel of an ideology named after the Senator? It cannot but be a reflection of his insertion in the social spectrum. If that is true, then the story must begin from the octopus the Kano State Government once ran. It is/was called WRECA, short for Water Resources and Engineering Construction Company. It was a Nigerian transnational company with a salary structure that was the envy of multinational corporations and top state owned conglomerates such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC). WRECA was the haven of local and foreign engineers, surveyors, etc with projects in and around Kano and much farther. It was a marker when government and governance was still a much more reflective exercise across Nigeria. The pioneer Managing Director was Alhaji Salihi Ilyasu, the original gubernatorial candidate of the defunct People’s Redemption Party, (PRP) in the Second Republic. Ilyasu was, however, changed because his deputy had tax clearance problems. He was replaced with the late Abubakar Rimi, meaning that either way, Kano would have had a good gubernatorial driver in the Second Republic.
The point about WRECA here is that Senator Kwankwaso cut his teeth in the octopus but he did so under a different Managing Director with a different ideological orientation from the pioneer MD. Kwankwaso served under Engineer Magaji Abdullahi who belonged to the General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua camp, not classical Aminu Kano’s radical tradition. The story is told of how Kwankwaso felt vulnerable as Magaji was leaving WRECA and made this known. Magaji was reported to have asked Kwankwaso if he would like to go and think about whether he would like to go to politics since he felt vulnerable. The die was cast. That was how Kwankwaso contested and emerged as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in the transition politics under the General Babangida regime. He has never looked back since then. In 1999, Kwankwaso and Abdullahi Ganduje slugged it out for Kano governorship, Ganduje being a Rimi loyalist. In the end, he was picked as Kwankwaso’s deputy and they managed to run the show till they were defeated in 2003. Those who know about their plumage said they constituted virtually a government in exile between 2003 and 2007. As Minister for Defence in Obasanjo’s Second term, Kwankwaso took care of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) in Kano. That was how he made a major political statement in 2007 by recapturing power as governor of Kano State for another four years. Gubernatorial powers in any state in Nigeria automatically translates to control of appointment, land and contracts.
The question now is, who or what ideology and message does this story tell us about Kwankwasoism? In other words, what is Kwankwaso, ideologically speaking? And without power over these instruments now, what would parachute Kwankwaso into presidential powers? How would a Kwankwaso fare in terms of dousing the current disarray within the power elite? Where exactly is the locus of power in Nigeria today and which constituency is still coherent enough to impose any semblance of order on the larger ruling class? How does the possible answers to that question favour or disfavour a Kwankwaso presidency? How well has Kwankwaso’s statement during his declaration last week taken note of some of these questions? Does his statement at his declaration show a critical enough awareness of the degree of rottenness Nigeria is confronting?
These questions are not necessarily addressed to the Kano Senator but to anyone who seeks to lead Nigeria today as the president. As each one of them roars into the arena, Intervention will strive to situate him or her ideologically and programmatically vis-a-vis the possibility of the re-invention of leadership in Nigeria, the absence of which would mean the defeat of democracy.